FRIDAY, 25 JANUARY 2019
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s Queensland Jobs Not Cuts bus tour; Labor’s commitment to DHS jobs in Cairns; Gilmore.
ELIDA FAITH, LABOR’S CANDIDATE FOR LEICHHARDT: Good afternoon my name is Elida Faith, I am the Labor candidate for Leichhardt and I am here this afternoon with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten who shortly is going to be making an exciting announcement on jobs for our region.
I am also here today with Shadow Minister for Regions Stephen Jones and Shadow Minister for Human Services Ed Husic. 40 per cent of the Australian workforce is in insecure work. People are doing it tough. They are struggling to put food on the table because it is really hard to find secure full time employment especially here in our region. We are seeing an increase in casualisation. An increase in unfair labour hire services. An increase in outsourcing of essential government services and it is just not good enough.
That is why today’s announcement is really exciting for us here and it is on the back of our recent announcement for $60 million that is going to see the Cairns University Hospital become a reality. And $15 million to upgrade our very busy Cairns Hospital emergency department. And I would like now to hand you over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi everyone it is great to be in Cairns finishing my nine day tour of Queensland. I really wanted to be here today and so when the diary commitments for tomorrow’s Australia Day in Melbourne loomed I was not going to let distance stop me. So I wanted to be here with Elida Faith, she is an outstanding candidate. And I also want to be in Cairns as I have good news for Cairns.
A Labor Government if elected will deliver 100 permanent jobs for the Department of Human Services in Cairns. It is so important that we make sure that we decentralise jobs in Australia. And it is so important that we make sure that the Department of Human Services and government services are responsive to the needs of local communities. I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of fantastic people, Katrina and Alan, they told me their stories.
They are people that need the requirement of some government support through no fault of their own. But unfortunately due to the terrible cuts to Centrelink, cuts to the Department of Human Services over the last five years, we are hearing and I have heard personally shocking and unacceptable treatment of our fellow Australians because of the cutbacks in services.
I make no negative judgment about the existing staff at DH&S. They are true trojans, they are doing a magnificent job. They are being asked to do more with less. The problem is we have a government that does not value looking after Australians that periodically need assistance. What we see is the casualisation of our government services. We see the use of contractors. We see the use of unfair contract arrangements undermining and cutting back the social safety net.
In life you never know when you are going to need a hand. That is why people pay their taxes. It is important that people in Far North Queensland and in Cairns who pay their taxes to Canberra receive some of the services in their own region.
Labor understands that Queensland is much more than South East Queensland. We believe fundamentally in the great future for Far North Queensland. From tourism, through to defence services, through to better infrastructure, better hospitals and better schools and of course jobs, jobs, jobs and secure jobs.
Today’s exciting announcement about 100 jobs in Cairns, follows extensive lobbying by Elida Faith, she is already getting the runs on the board and she is not even the member for Leichhardt. Not making long winded, gasbagging speeches where nothing ever happens, she is action woman. She is getting on and doing things. But I must also acknowledge the people who did the Cairns convoy to Canberra, you know Advance Cairns. They are a good group of business people. At the end of the day when I met with them they were not interested in Labor or Liberal or LNP or Labor, they just wanted action for their community. And I listened and we’re listening and Labor listens. And if we can get the marvellous outcome of Elida Faith to be local member it is going to be a shot in the arm, it’s a bit of rejuvenation. Sometimes you can be in one job for too long. You get tired and you get past it. That is not Elida, she is a dynamo and she is going to stand up for working people. This announcement today, to conclude, also finishes a raft of exciting announcements of Labor’s vision for Far North Queensland. And health is at the centre of our vision for Far North Queensland.
When you have your health anything else is possible. But if that is under pressure then everything becomes under pressure. That is why Labor was happy to lead the way with our commitment to the Cairns University Hospital with $10 million to acquire land and $50 million to contribute towards the construction. But our support for health does not just stop at our vision for the future. Our vision which sees Cairns as an international destination - so that we can train and attract Cairns the best and the brightest and to help train people and that helps to generate a stronger local economy.
But we are determined to upgrade the emergency department here. At the Cairns Base Hospital, Cairns Hospital, our emergency trauma people and the people that work there do a fantastic job. But it is long overdue to get an upgrade to the facilities so we can make sure that we are providing assistance to people that need urgent assistance in the most professional first class facilities, and that also helps take the burden off our doctors and nurses and paramedics.
Of course too only a Labor government at the next election can be trusted to reverse the cuts to Cairns Hospital. It is about $7.3 million over the last three years. If you haven’t got your health then everything else becomes under pressure. And only Labor can be trusted to properly fund health care in Far North Queensland and when you look at that plus our other exciting initiatives extending the Bruce to the airport, and I want to do more to tackle congestion, combine that with our vision for jobs, Labor is the party for Far North Queensland and Elida Faith deserves people’s votes at the next election.
We're happy to take any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Warren Mundine is a good get for the Liberals?
SHORTEN: No. Listen I understand there's resentment within the Labor Party towards Mr Mundine but that's not really my focus. What I find so telling about the current Prime Minister's captain's call is I think it is extraordinary that he would fight so hard to impose his mate against his party's wishes. I would have thought that he would have been wiser to ensure, especially in a seat like Gilmore where there's allegations of bullying against the former women member of parliament that surely this is a seat that he should have fought to impose a woman to replace a woman. I can think of no Liberal seat anywhere else in Australia where this should have been even more the case.
But instead, when people ask Mr Morrison, when they question him what he's doing to help women into parliament he says our party don't intervene to help women. When it comes to his mates and blokes all of a sudden he's up for the fight and I think this just shows the ongoing chaos and confusion in the government at the moment and my prediction is we're going to see more government members jump ship. They know that their party has lost the will to govern. I mean how else could you explain the fact that in the first eight months of this year - or from when parliament last sat, this lazy, work shy LNP government in Canberra have only scheduled seven days for senators to show up for work and ten for the House of Representatives.
Imagine anyone else in Cairns or Far North Queensland ringing the boss and saying, listen I've had a long hard think over summer and I'd like to turn up for ten days in the first seven or eight months of this year. You'd get the sack.
JOURNALIST: Are you really worried he might win Gilmore?
SHORTEN: Listen that will be up to the voters to decide. What I know is that Fiona Phillips, she'll stand against cuts to hospitals, she'll make sure that there's proper infrastructure, at Shoalhaven for example. She wants to see every school in Gilmore properly funded and she certainly won't support tax cuts for the big end of town. She wants to see better tax refunds for every Australian, nearly ten million who earn less than $120,000 a year. She believes that you've got to have more renewable energy in the system because that will help tackle climate change and reduce energy prices. She's committed to properly funding our health care system and reversing the freeze on the patient rebate which people get when they visit the doctor.
But I do think that this Liberal civil war in Gilmore is just another latest example of a Liberal government who's lost the will to govern. They're either jumping ship or pushing each other off and I think that the sooner we can have the election and just get on with some stability in Australia, get on with some certainty, then I think the better.
JOURNALIST: What's your message to China after detaining an Australian citizen?
SHORTEN: Well it's a, it is a very disturbing, very disturbing development. There are protocols between China and Australia and between countries when a country detains a citizen of another country, we need to get to the bottom of it. I am not going to engage in megaphone diplomacy, I mean individuals in the parliament can have their own views and I respect that but for the current Prime Minister and myself, we're either the government or the alternative government. We need to work through this intelligently and robustly and I certainly hope that Minister Pyne has some success in resolving this problem.
JOURNALIST: Just coming back to Labor's announcement, the Human Services Minister Michael Keenan has said when Labor was last in power they cut 1400 jobs from the Department of Human Services, is today’s announcement about <inaudible>?
SHORTEN: Well I might get my Shadow Spokesperson, Ed Husic to talk further about this issue but I think that the current Human Services Minister Michael Keenan, he's been caught out here. There's no doubt in my mind that we've seen a lot of cuts to jobs under his watch and what's worse is we see the people who rely on human services, vulnerable Australians being treated as second class Aussies, but why don't we get Ed over to further supplement that answer.
ED HUSIC, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HUMAN SERVICES: Thanks Bill and firstly if I can congratulate Elida because Elida has really been making sure that Cairns voices are heard in the consideration of jobs in particular around DHS jobs and so well done in relation to that.
The facts speak for themselves. When you look at the number of jobs in DHS under Labor and compare it to the Coalition, Labor has got a great record to talk about. Under the Coalition, what we have seen is job cuts, we've seen more use of contractors and we've seen complaints go through the roof.
All they want to talk about is history and ignore the experience people are having now with Centrelink, where they are on the phone for ages, where they feel like they can't get the service that they need and where jobs are being cut and we are determined to draw a line in the sand on that and to say that, particularly in regional Australia that they get the lion’s share of these jobs that will make sure that we not only see better outcomes in terms of jobs in the economy and different parts of the country we are better service. This is an investment in service in Centrelink, and we think we've got to really tackle the damage that’s been done by the Coalition in their time there. Some of the contracting out is just extraordinary.
Even the government admits that it costs more to bring in a contractor. They pay the people that work for those contractors less than what they are paying Centrelink people. The general public's experience and the inability of those contractors to meet the needs of the public are clear there is a big frustration there. So you know, the government can throw all the figures that it wants, the record speaks for itself, people's experiences speak loudly and we are determined to change all that.
SHORTEN: Thanks Ed. A couple of other questions.
JOURNALIST: These 100 new jobs, do you have any idea of how long it'll take to come in? Are we going to be waiting for years?
SHORTEN: We want to start straight away. I mean, the only problem is that the government is still the current government, so the jobs start flowing once we change the government. But I'll get Ed to talk a bit more about the roll-out.
HUSIC: There will be, just in response to your question, we'll be working with - obviously if we have the ability to form government - we'll be working with the Department to work out where we can get the jobs fast-tracked and talking with our candidates and our local members as well. They will be stepped out over the forward years, roughly the same amount each year. But we want to make sure that we get these things done right, and that we've also got to deal with a whole stack of the where you put them, how you do it, and I don't think that's the type of thing that you leave to run in the middle of a press conference, but we'll be making those calls over that period of time.
JOURNALIST: Was Cairns always on your itinerary for this Queensland tour?
SHORTEN: Yes it was. I'm - this is about my 10th visit to Cairns since I've been Opposition Leader, so therefore you can't really talk about Queensland without paying respect to Far North Queensland. And when you drive a bus 2000km, to be fair the company drove the bus, but when you go in a bus for 2000kms, and you've got 9 days, we could get as far as Townsville. But I wasn't going to let distance stop me coming to Cairns. We've got some good news for Cairns, I like Cairns. But really, Cairns has been neglected by the Federal Government over recent years. I was just reflecting on that when I was talking to an insurance broker at the airport. Look at the issues the current member just hasn't addressed - storm insurance, we know that’s one of the most difficult issues, the market is not working properly, there's insufficient offerings and it's very expensive. The current Member of Parliament for Leichhardt, you know if you had a gold coin for every time he said he was going to look into fixing the storm insurance issue you'd be a millionaire.
And then I had a look at tourism more generally. I mean, this government set up the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, the problem is they never opened the door and went out and had a look at the deals which needed to be done in Cairns itself. We've got a different vision. We intend to create a $1 billion Tourism Infrastructure Fund, because we get that tourism is a big part of the future of the far north. Again when you look at the issues around health care , you know there’s been cut backs under this government, freezes to patient rebates - these are matters of record. We are going to take a different view of health. We think that it’s far more important to choose better hospitals, not bigger multinationals. And of course in the next couple of weeks all the kids will be going back to school. The cost of living for parents is out of control. Now I read the other day that Australia now has 160 billionaires, the most ever and that’s under the current Liberal government. That is as it is, what I am worried about is that in the same time as this government has seen the creation of 160 billionaires, energy prices have gone up 20 per cent on average since the last election. Private health insurance is becoming a luxury. Everything is going up in Cairns and the far north, except wages.
So I am pretty keen for us to get on and have the debate (inaudible) .. sources from the National Government, that's why for example I announced (inaudible) exciting national procurement.
My fear is that if there is a contract allocated which will go to the far north, we want to make sure that whoever is bidding for the work has local content. Put another way, no local jobs, no contract.
We are telling business in Australia that if you want to spend taxpayer money, important, precious taxpayer money in Far North Queensland then it's got to stay in this community. That's certainly what Elida believes and it's what we believe.
JOURNALIST: Casualisation has been something that local (inaudible).
SHORTEN: Well the best way to improve secure employment is to change the government. Perhaps we'll have to sacrifice a couple of ministers’ jobs so we can look after millions of other Australians. If that's the case, so be it. The reality is that we have a two class labour market in Australia there's about eight billion plus Aussies who are in full time work, that's good and there is nearly four billion Australians in part time work. Now some of those jobs are seasonal, that's by the nature of it you'd understand that in the Far North better than most places.
But too many of our fellow Australians are in insecure work for no other reason than the current laws just permit employers to treat people as commodities. There will be people today, right around Australia and certainly in Queensland who won't find out if they've got a shift of work tomorrow until they get a text tonight.
How on earth do people sink roots into communities when they are in casual and insecure work? How on earth can you get a financial loan, a car loan, a mortgage. It's very difficult to make long term plans in relationships if you live in a second class labour market where you are treated as a disposable tissue, so to speak. A disposable commodity in workplaces.
Labor has got some exciting plans but the only way Labor can implement our plans for example, to make sure we train Australians rather than just import temporary labour. For example, to make sure that Australian parents can tell their kids there are apprenticeships in the future. For example where we've got council workers who work alongside labour hire workers, labour hire workers who do the same work get the same skill and are paid a lot less because of legal technicalities undermining the job security of permanent workers. The only way we can start putting some balance back into the workplace is to have an election and to vote for Elida Faith and to vote for Labor.
It's no mystery to me why everything is going up except wages.
Because what we have is a labour market where people don't have the ability to get wage rises so what we're seeing in Australia is an increasingly unequal society. The very rich are getting very, very rich and everyone else is dipping into household savings just to keep their - just to make ends meet.
Thanks everybody, nice to talk to you.